SNP urged to divert 'vanity spending' on Scottish independence referendum

The call was made by the Scottish Conservatives ahead of the Budget.

SNP urged to divert ‘vanity spending’ on Scottish independence referendum STV News

The Scottish Conservatives have told the SNP to divert “vanity spending” on an independence referendum towards funding for hospitals and schools in the country.

It comes ahead of John Swinney setting out the Scottish Government’s fiscal plans at Holyrood on Thursday.

The deputy First Minister has stated that “difficult decisions” will have to be taken due to the state of the economy.

COSLA, the organisation which represents councils across Scotland, has also warned of a £1bn gap for local authorities in 2023/2024.

Bosses at COSLA have indicated that critical work carried out by council staff could be significantly reduced, or even cut, due to the severity of the funding constraints.

Swinney will deliver his Budget statement at the Scottish Parliament, having taken on the role as finance secretary on a temporary basis in place of Kate Forbes who is on maternity leave.

Ahead of the statement, the Scottish Conservatives urged the SNP to use funds that had been earmarked for an independence referendum elsewhere in light of the verdict by the Supreme Court.

Judges ruled that Holyrood does not have the legislative competence to hold a vote on the issue, despite the Scottish Government having intended to hold one in October, 2023.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative finance and economy spokeswoman, said that £1.2bn in additional funding for Scotland outlined by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his Autumn Statement should help to ease the pressure on Scots.

The Scottish Conservative MSP also criticised the Scottish Government for blaming Westminster.

However, the Scottish Government has stated that no additional money has been set out by the UK Government to help fund pay increases for public sector workers.

“As usual, the SNP – focused on its independence obsession – has tried to blame Westminster for areas and budgets entirely within the Scottish Government’s control,” said Smith.

“Thanks to Scotland’s place within the UK, John Swinney will now have significant additional funding and the scope to deliver real help if he chooses to concentrate on Scotland’s real priorities for once.

“With Scotland’s NHS on its knees and education standards in freefall, it’s essential that the Barnett consequentials stemming from the Chancellor’s budget are passed on directly to our hospitals and schools.

“Meanwhile, the SNP is sitting on money that could help hard-pressed families and businesses now.

“It should immediately divert its vanity spending on a referendum that the courts have ruled out and abandon reckless plans fort a costly, centralised National Care Service that everyone else can see is a bad idea.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is responding to a cost-of-living crisis involving an increased demand on public services, supporting Ukrainian refugees and attempting to secure fair pay settlements for public sector workers.

“The UK Government has provided no additional funding for this year’s pay uplifts to respond to inflation.

“The deputy First Minister will outline the 2023/2024 Scottish Budget proposals, including on taxation, later this week.”

The Scottish Greens, who entered government in August 2021 after an agreement was reached with the SNP, have claimed that the Budget will be the “greenest” in the history of the Parliament.

Ross Greer, the party’s finance spokesperson, said: “Despite the difficult circumstances, I am confident that this Budget will deliver on our Green priorities of tackling child poverty and taking action on the climate emergency.

“I believe it will be the Greenest budget in the Scottish Parliament’s history.

“With Scottish Greens now in government and at the heart of the process, we have ensured that Green priorities and values run right the way through it.”

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